Before COVID-19, we were all talking about the new consumer and the effects of technology on the restaurant industry. We read articles, joined in discussions at conferences and debated at our weekly team meetings about which technologies would be best to move our brands in the right direction for future growth. We had time to evaluate emerging technologies and make investments as the data made sense.

But, when the crisis hit, the restaurant industry shifted overnight, and the future came knocking at our doors much quicker than expected. Many brands were ready for the stay-at-home economy. We also saw brands, not currently taking advantage of off-premise occasions, scramble to create a new revenue stream as it became the only way to stay in business. The way we serve our guests has forever changed and this reimagining of our businesses is not going anywhere soon. 

Based on the data, we were already headed in this direction. We are in an on-demand economy. In 2020, there are over 24 billion internet connected devices (four devices per person on average). The current crisis sped up the timeline and now everyone is living in a stay-at- home economy. The entire restaurant landscape has evolved to meet new demands driven by the changing consumer. Today’s consumer needs to eat conveniently and without friction. Today, consumers are, not only in a stay-at-home economy, but a bring it to me economy and brands that offer great food with an easy ordering application will thrive in the new economy.

Here are few things to consider as you move full-throttle toward off-premises solutions.

Think about menu development that supports off-premises sales. As your culinary teams consider creating menu options to entice the new consumer, factor in this new variable. With the popularity of UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash, and a host of other delivery apps that make it easy for in-home diners to enjoy your food, understanding a delivery-friendly menu is paramount. A menu item that sells great for a dine-in occasion, may not adapt to delivery or take-out. There are many logistics to consider in creating dishes that travel well and arrive to your customer in a way that reflects your brand promise. Your customers still expect quality ingredients, menu variety and value—all delivered to their door.

Safety will become as important as speed. We are all very busy and want items quickly, but safety of your product will trump speed of your products. Guest are looking for evidence that you are providing a safe meal experience. From tamper proof containers to ongoing communication to your guest on the steps you have taken to ensure your product is safe.

Create training programs that simplify delivery and carry-out operations. Technology does much of the heavy lifting when it comes to online ordering, but additional training for your staff can create an even more efficient experience. Teamwork is critical and all positions must understand their roles. Order accuracy is the holy grail of delivery and pick-up. Adding a position that checks accuracy, proper packaging and timing of all to-go, delivery and online orders, can also help create consistent success.

Redeploy your space. With delivery and take-out channels burgeoning, brick and mortar restaurants may need to optimize their spaces to expand these channels. By shrinking dine-in areas, restaurants can carve out new areas for staff to package orders, run-through checklists, and stage pick-ups for guests and delivery drivers.  You can also designate parking spaces for curbside pick-up. Remember you are catering to the convenience and on-the-go needs of your guests

Even before the coronavirus accelerated off-premises dining channels, delivery had become a $200 billion dollar global market with almost 60 percent of customers in the U.S. ordering delivery or takeout once per week. This trend has taken on a whole new life and we expect to see these numbers climb, even after the world re-opens. Restaurants that are gearing up for this new consumer will feel the tailwinds of success.

Carl Howard is CEO of Fazoli’s, America’s largest premium Italian quick-service chain and a frequent restaurant industry commentator. Over the past few years, he re-engineered Fazoli’s from a quick-service concept facing many challenges to a thriving and growing fast casual brand that adapts to changing consumer dynamics. Howard successfully realigned Fazoli’s for future growth through a series of strategic changes in marketing, menu innovation, service and facilities upgrades. Howard has received many industry accolades throughout his 35 years in the food service industry and he strives to further the industry through mentoring programs and Fazoli’s Dare to Excel Educational Scholarship Program.    

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